A high school Black merit scholar said he was removed from his graduation ceremony for refusing to take off a traditional African kente cloth.
The student said an administrator approached him and told him to remove his cultural cloth from Ghana, which he had hanging around his neck, but Holmes refused.
‘That represents my blackness,’ he said of his kente cloth, as he recalled the ordeal on Twitter on Tuesday.
Holmes told Daily Mail Online on Friday that prior to graduation, he had planned to wear a kente cloth to the ceremony.
He said he purchased it from a Christian Ghanaian producer on Amazon, and that his desire to wear it stemmed from his lack of an actual, firm connection to his ancestors in Africa.
‘I decided to wear it to show my pride in myself, in my culture and my religion,’ he told Daily Mail Online.
When the administrator approached him on Tuesday, telling him he could not walk the stage with his kente cloth on, Holmes said the administrator dismissed him in a disrespectful way without hearing what he had to say.
He said he told the school officials that his kente cloth was a ‘cultural piece’ and that he refused to be ‘forced not to take pride in who I am,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘I them [sic] asked him [the administrator] if “his agenda was worth more than my cultural pride.” He then says that he has no agenda.
‘So he proceeds to tell me that he will have the police remove me. He brings over some “rent-a-cop” so I tell him no as well.’
Holmes said the administrator then stormed off to get police to try and remove him before he got the chance to walk across the stage.
In the end, the student was able to walk, but he said police officers were waiting at the other end of the stage.
‘I get to the stage and I think I’m home clear. I go through shaking all the hands and smiling feeling as if I won,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘Them [sic] when I get to the stairs I see 3 sherriffs at the bottom of the stairs.’
Holmes said he was then escorted out of the arena by the three officers from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
When asked how he felt in that moment, Holmes told Daily Mail Online he felt both shocked and frightened.
‘I was pretty frightened as a young African American male with three officers as they were walking me through this secluded corridor where no one else was,’ he said.
‘I asked if I could get my diploma and drop off my cap and gown, but they told me to keep on walking.
‘Once I got a hold of my mom, I told her to meet me outside of the arena and that I was no longer apart of the ceremony.
‘There were a lot of mixed emotions. I was shocked and surprised.’
Holmes said once outside, his parents, grandparents and aunt met him there, who he said were all equally shocked about the ordeal.
He said his dad made an unsuccessful attempt to get his diploma for him since he was not able to get it before they come across another security guard who was able to take him to get his diploma.
‘My dad comes across this security guard (black of course) that gets me into the exit to get my diploma,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘And then he takes a pic of me and says “much love brother, stay up and achieve more.”‘
While he said he missed out on a majority of his graduation ceremony, Holmes said it was worth it to him.
‘I think it’s important to be culturally proud,’ he told Daily Mail Online, adding he hopes to inspire others to be true to themselves and stand up for their beliefs.
On Friday, the Elk Grove Unified School District issued a statement regarding the incident which noted a ‘student was prohibited from participating in the remainder of the school’s graduation ceremony for refusing to follow direction of school officials who were attempting to uphold the established dress code and for ignoring repeated requests to remove unauthorized non-school award regalia,’ the Atlanta Black Star reported.
‘The District regrets how events unfolded in this instance; however there was no intent to discriminate against the student, as the same rules apply to every graduate,’ the statement said.
The District noted the student was allowed to walk across the stage and be recognized, taking a picture with the principal wearing the Kente cloth, and was later given his diploma.
Following the ordeal, he said he has received a lot of support and kind words on social media, even from celebrities including actor Orlando Jones (shown above)
It also said that the District’s approved graduation uniform is a cap and gown and that prior to the ceremony, school officials were unfortunately not given the opportunity to speak with the student’s family about the student’s desire to wear the cloth.
Holmes told Daily Mail Online on Friday that the school nor the administrator who approached him has personally contacted him regarding the incident.
Following the ordeal, he said he has received a lot of support and kind words on social media, even from celebrities including actor Orlando Jones.
‘I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people saying they are proud of me so that’s a good feeling,’ he told Daily Mail Online.
‘People from Ghana and other countries have also reached out to me.’
However, he said he has also received negative comments from people ‘being extremely rude’ and attacking his personal character, with some calling him a rule breaker and a criminal.
‘I just laugh it off because I know that I am not any of those things,’ he told Daily Mail Online.
As he looks forward to his future, Holmes said he will attend California State University, Fullerton where he will study film and art.